This year's Ray Guy/Prokicker.com camp held at the practice football field at Thomson High School last week drew 38 participants, along with four All-American college football instructors.
It marked the first time in the camp's history that many All-American college football kickers had assembled together for instructional lessons with prep players from all over the Southeast. The local camp also included a Canadian youngster, who attended a similar camp that featured the kicking legend, Ray Guy, the previous weekend in Dallas, Tex..
Guy, who played for 14 years in the National Football League and won two Super Bowls Championships with the Oakland Raiders, attended the Thomson camp and provided lots of helpful advice to youngsters interested in improving their kicking skills. Three of those receiving such specialized attention included three football players at Thomson High School - Nic Wood, Phillip Anderson and Nick Rau.
It also featured four All-American college football players - all of who work as instructors with the Ray Guy/ProKicker.com camp. They included Taylor Long, 22, a senior at Eastern Kentucky University; John Gregory, 22, a rising senior at Tusculum College in Greenville, Tennessee; Jonathan Ruffin, 27, a former All-American at the University of Cincinnati; and Graham Gano, the senior three-year punter/kicker at the Florida State University.
Gano, recipient of this year's Lou Groza award as the best kicker in the nation, booted three punts inside the 3-yard line during the first half of the Champs Sports Bowl game that Florida State played in against Wisconsin. The Seminoles of Head Coach Bobby Bowden ended up winning that game 42-13. Ruffin also is a former Lou Groza award winner.
Like his counterparts, Gano talked with all of the youngsters who attended the camp in Thomson.
"This is a real special treat for all of us, because we have never had four All-American college football players - two of them Lou Groza award winners - help us at a camp before," said Paul Leroy, of Thomson. Leroy serves as one of the senior instructors of the camp. He also served as Ray Guy's former head football coach when he played at Thomson High School.
"I think these kids are getting a lot out of what these great college kickers are teaching them about certain aspects of kicking the football," Leroy added.
"I like teaching younger players about many of the things I've learned from kicking over the years," Gano said during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror. "It's pretty neat to see them improve."
Gano, who is majoring in criminology, hopes to become either an FBI agent or a crime scene specialist someday.
Long, Gregory and Ruffin said they enjoy working as camp instructors, too.
"I like seeing the progress that a kid can make in such a short period of time," Long said. "It brings a big smile to my face at the end of the camp when I see that a talented kicker has improved his kicking skills."
Gregory, who has worked with the Ray Guy/ProKicker.com camp for the past four years, said he enjoys exchanging email addresses with several of prep kickers.
"It's nice to keep up with them and their progress," Gregory said.
Ruffin, 27, who hails from Metairie, La., is a communications specialist and has worked as a camp instructor for nine years.
"I love meeting all the kids and traveling all over the country working at these camps," Ruffin said.
During the past two years, Ruffin has enjoyed playing kicker for the New Orleans Voodoos - an arena football team. The league, however, won't be playing this year because of economic cutbacks. They plan to return to action next year.
Each of the camps are special for Guy, who is considered by many to have been the greatest-ever punter in the NFL.
"We try to make the camps as fun as we can for the kids, but we want them to learn a lot at the same time," Guy said. He also enjoys sharing stories with them about his playing days.
The camp went "fantastic," Guy said. "It always goes good. I'm having a ball. It's fun to work with them."